SAN FRANCISCO — The wait for tables is getting longer at Buck's, a popular breakfast spot for the tech elite and a weather vane for the Silicon Valley economy. Here, like everywhere else, Facebook is the talk of the town.
"Charles Schwab was in the restaurant the other day, and I asked him to hook me up with some Facebook shares," said Jamis MacNiven, owner of Buck's, in the wealthy suburban enclave of Woodside. "He told me even he can't get Facebook shares."
The new tech boom officially gets underway Friday when Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg rings Nasdaq's opening bell remotely from the company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, launching the largest initial public offering of stock in Silicon Valley history.
The social media company's projected $100-billion valuation heralds a new era of prosperity in a region famous for minting fortunes.
Wealth has trickled down to employees and investors who cashed in their shares ahead of the IPO on private exchanges. Others are spending in advance of their big payday, fueling an economy that's already humming thanks to the Bay Area's thriving technology sector.
Upscale stores and restaurants are packed. Good luck getting a table at Madera in Menlo Park, not far from Facebook's headquarters. The see-and-be-seen restaurant at the swanky Rosewood Sand Hill hotel is booked solid for lunch almost daily.
Luxury cars are flying off dealers' lots. In San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties combined, luxury vehicles accounted for nearly 21% of new car registrations from April 2011 to March 2012. That's almost double the national average, according to automotive research firm Polk.
"I have rarely, if ever, seen the luxury mix this high," said Tom Libby, lead North American forecasting analyst at the Michigan company. "These data clearly show that there is wealth — and a lot of it — in these counties."